1870 Steam Engine Part 1
March 30, 2007 2:48 PM
The Civil War has just ended. The rift between North and South has left the country drained, torn, and bloodied. President Lincoln is set to enjoy a relaxing evening of theater. And some of the best engineering minds in the nation are hard at work designing an 11-ton steam engine to churn out 125 horsepower to power an arclight generator at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
Though its exact ancestry is unknown, Jay's steam engine was most likely completed around 1870 after several years of design and development. Though it only has 125 horsepower, it has a massive amount of torque - plenty of energy to power an arclight generator to keep the electricity buzzing.
For such an old piece of machinery, this steam engine is a remarkable piece of engineering and has survived the years mostly intact. When Jay and his crew finish fabricating a few missing and worn-out parts, the engine will be ready to crank out power just as it did over 100 years ago.
How a Steam Engine Works
A boiler converts water into steam that is sent through a pipe - when fully functional, Jay's boiler will be able to burn through 500 gallons of water an hour. However, only a fraction of that amount of water will be required to get the engine to idle.
The steam pushes the engine's pistons down. Acting in-sync, a slide valve opens and then closes, cutting off the steam and thus reversing the direction of the piston. This operation happens at rapid rates of speed to power a flywheel - the flywheel on Jay's steam engine can rotate at between 60 and 90 rpms.
Steam engines are regulated by a governor that typically consists of two metal balls attached to two arms. When the engine moves faster, the arms open up sending the metal balls rotating closer to the walls of their metal housing - thus the expression "balls to the wall."